“I remember there was this dentist’s office in town right next to a bar. Frequently, the dentist would find cars of the previous night’s bar customers blocking access to his office. So that was a pretty regular morning run for us, and sometimes Dad would let me help him hook up the cars to be towed.”

You could say that towing is in her blood, and she and Ron would agree wholeheartedly.


Prime Towing’s Origin Story

It all began in 1995, in Warsaw, Kentucky. Ron had a construction company that specialized in concrete work, and he got into the towing business as a sideline to supplement his income. But in 1998, while working a recovery, a semi hit his wrecker, knocking the wrecker into him where he stood on the side of the road. Ron suffered serious injuries, and even after his recuperation, he couldn’t do the hard physical labor that construction work required.

“And that is when I went full forward on the wrecker service. It’s what I had left, and I had to make it work.” He bought his first rollback in 2000 from Atlanta Wrecker Sales, and the two companies have continued to enjoy success working together ever since.

It worked so well and grew so much that by 2005 Ron had decided to downsize, to make the size of the business a little more manageable. He shut down the location in Kentucky and started a new business in the tiny, unincorporated town of Holladay, Tenn., population 2,213.

It would seem that the biggest problem with this plan was that it might be tough to make a go of it in a new, small town. But that wasn’t the problem Ron and Stacie experienced. As Ron puts it, “Of course, we were going to downsize but it just wouldn't downsize! It just kept getting bigger.” Father and daughter decided to go with the flow and let the business grow.

Their marketing has been almost purely word of mouth. Prime Towing has an emergency response time of 10-15 minutes, and its reputation is built on that kind of service. They have been smart about reinvesting in their business as the kind of calls they got over the years became more complex.

“Good equipment is key,” Ron adds. “Our fleet is almost 100% Jerr-Dan, and I’ll tell you the main reason why. They stand behind what they sell. Period!”

Ron shares his basic keys to success. “Treat people the way you’d want to be treated, and they’ll keep coming back,” he says. “And when it comes to the finances, you’re not going to be able to retire on what you make from one tow. Just be fair. I always say, sure, I eat steak, but probably not every day. Don’t be greedy. And that’s how I try to run the business.”

At this point in the story, Ron points to Stacie. “She’s been my right hand since she was 13 or 14 years old. The rest of the story is hers.”


Growing Up in the Business

Stacie takes up the narrative.

“First, obviously, as a kid I would run around the yard and shop any chance I got. My Dad and a few other employees were always keeping an eye on me. I would get to go out with him on tow jobs, and later out to wrecks as long as the site was all cleared up and safe.”

“Since Dad started his business, any chance I got I was either in the truck with him or an employee. I started riding along with him mainly and then when I was allowed to help him work, I helped with the cleanup of accidents and so on. And of course, I eventually started helping in the office and then working in Dispatch. After I did my first tow by myself, he bought me my own rollback.”

Of course, it takes more than familiarity to induce an adult to make a career of anything, and Stacie Harris is no different. She credits three main reasons that influenced her to follow in her father’s footsteps.

“There’s the satisfaction of helping people who are often scared or overwhelmed. We get thank you letters, they tell us how grateful they are for us getting them off the interstate, and so on. I think it’s something like the satisfaction a nurse feels, or a fireman feels knowing that they are really helping people. That is a huge factor in my decision to make this business my career.”

Another reason that she loves her work is something else that most of her fellow towers will find relatable.

“You know, in all honesty, I don't know exactly how to describe it. But the adrenaline rush is for sure part of the appeal,” she says. “When you're on your way out to an accident or whatever, obviously, nine times out of ten, you don't know what you're going to find when you get there. Every accident is different, no two are exactly alike.”

Stacie says that she and her father share what she assumes is a genetic trait. As a child, she remembers that when they would rush out to the truck and take off for an emergency run, one of her dad’s feet would begin to fidget and jitter all the way to the site. Years later, she noticed that she was doing the same thing. Once the adrenaline hits, the foot just gets all fidgety. “I have no idea how long I’ve been doing that,” she says, laughing.

And of course, she credits her father’s example. She knows that he started out on his own, with no special advantages. Everything he has, he built up himself. Stacie knows that one day she will take the business over from him, and she knows that her father built the business for her. “I look up to him,” she says, “he is literally my role model.”

“It's become a part of my life, you know, watching him and learning from him. One of my proudest moments is when I was out on a run, and the Highway Patrol walked up to me and said, ‘It’s almost like your dad's working this wreck right now.’ So, I guess I've been paying attention.”


Tackling Tomorrow’s Challenges Today

Like many towing company owners—in fact, like leaders in many different industries—Stacie sees the lack of available, trainable workers as a worrying trend.

The labor shortage in many industries is top of mind even for huge corporations. Traditional “hard-hat” industries like mining and construction have begun to actively, even aggressively, recruit females willing to work in their mainly male-dominated industries. This outreach, in most cases, has nothing to do with politics. It is simply an attempt to tap into an underused labor resource during a time when it is difficult to fill all open positions.

Stacie agrees that there is room for a lot more female towers in the towing and recovery business.

“I know that there are more women in this business than there used to be, but the number is still not large. For them, for me—honestly, towing is still mainly a man’s world.”

This presents obvious challenges for women wanting to enter the industry, but it also continues to affect women in management and ownership positions, like Stacie.

“I feel like one of my biggest struggles is still the way I have to navigate my way through a male-dominated industry. For example, when we hire new employees, I have to stand my ground to be taken seriously. That is one extra thing I have to do. I have to stay on top of it because when Dad’s not around, I am the boss. My team, those that I’ve worked with for any amount of time, know that I know what I’m doing, and they respect me. But let’s face it. A lot of men won’t give me the same respect they’d automatically give Dad. Now, in time, I’ll earn that guy’s respect. But sure, it slows some things down for a while, and sometimes it creates friction, which is just not productive.”


Bullish About the Future

When Stacie considers current and future opportunities, she sees mostly the upside. Despite the challenges, she feels that Prime Towing, at least, continues to have significantly more opportunities to grow. She does not have any worries on that score.

“Thinking about the opportunities for us right now, and for a lot of towers like us, the first word that comes to mind is ‘endless.’ I know that’s not literally true, but there are so many more services we can offer, and territory we can cover, that it feels that way. I can honestly say that I am really looking forward to the years ahead.”